Burning questions: Key injuries, Matthew Stafford starts, penalty-prone defense, and an aggressive coaching decision by Matt Patricia in the Detroit Lions' 24-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field on Friday night.
Question: What was the most important development of the night?
Answer: In most games it would be Matthew Stafford playing for the first time and giving the offense some energy and production, but everything was overshadowed by injuries to linebacker Jarrad Davis and center Frank Ragnow.
Both had injuries to the right leg, and both were unable to put pressure on their injured leg as they were helped from the field.
They have to undergo testing and evaluation to determine the severity of the injury, but there has to be a major concern by the Lions.
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills Preseason Week 3 game at Ford Field on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019 in Detroit.
Q. Impact: Any injury is serious, but why would those two be so damaging if they’re lost for any period of time?
A. As head coach Matt Patricia has often said, he wants strength up the middle – and Ragnow and Davis give the Lions strength where they want it. Davis is the defensive leader and play caller at middle linebacker, and Ragnow makes the line calls at center.
After starting at left guard as a rookie in 2018, Ragnow was moved to center in the offseason this year as a key part in the reworking of the interior offensive line.
Bottom line: Davis and Ragnow are good, young players, and they will be missed for however long they’re out of the lineup.
Q. Stafford’s return: Surprised that he started after sitting out the first two games?
A. No surprise. It could have gone either way. A case can be made for starting or sitting.
Q. Stafford’s play: How would you rate his performance?
A. He was pretty good – not great, but clearly in command of the offense. There was sharpness to the offense that wasn’t present with the other quarterbacks, and that’s understandable. This is Stafford’s 11th year as the starter.
He led one touchdown drive that ended in an 11-yard pass to rookie running back Ty Johnson. Stafford got the ball to Johnson in a tight window with a defender near him just before he crossed the goal line in the front left corner of the end zone.
That play was an example of one of the qualities Stafford brings to the offense: A strong arm, and the confidence to get the ball into tight spaces before defenders can react.
He also had another throw that rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson dropped that would have been a touchdown. It was an underhand sidearm throw – another throw Stafford can make that sets him apart from most quarterbacks – but Hockenson couldn’t come up with it. It would have been a walk-in touchdown had he caught the ball.
Q. First Bills TD, Lions flags: What stood out on the 81-yard TD drive that gave the Bills a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter?
A. Three penalties on the Lions’ defense are what stood out. It was not a good sequence for the defense.
The first was for a late hit by linebacker Christian Jones on Bills quarterback Josh Allen. It wiped out an interception by Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Two plays later safety Tracy Walker got a penalty for an obvious late hit out of bounds on a 27-yard gain by Frank Gore. Another seven yards were tacked on for a taunting penalty against A’Shawn Robinson.
That gave Buffalo possession inside the 10, and the Bills scored on a six-yard run by Isaiah McKenzie.
Q. Defense: Rate its performance.
A. It was pretty good when the starters were in. Damon Harrison Sr. and Mike Daniels played for the first time, and that made a difference up front – even with Davis out.
Quandre Diggs got a fumble recovery caused by a hit by Justin Coleman in the first half, and rookie safety Will Harris recovered a fumble on a Bills punt return in the second quarter.
Q. Fourth and go: Patricia had the offense go for it rather than kick a field goal on fourth and three at the Bills’ 11 in the first quarter. Right call by Patricia?
A. I love it in August, win or lose. And I love it in the regular season when it works. On this play, Stafford hit Johnson with the TD pass.
Q. Bottom line: What was the biggest takeaway in the game?
A. From the Lions’ standpoint, the injuries. They put a damper on everything.